There were two news stories on my desktop today that, individually, were sad tales of accidental death. But side by side as they were, they pointed out the difference between a life well spent and a sad waste.
In the one instance, we have the explosion resulting in three deaths at Scaled Composites. Scaled Composites is the company that won the X-Prize a few years back for being the first commercial company to get a vehicle into “space” with their SpaceShipOne vehicle. The people at Scaled Composites are developing inexpensive and reliable technologies for getting people and material into orbit. Despite their skills and design excellence, they are still working with some dangerous materials…and accidents can happen. The three that died were pursuing a noble end, and I can look on their efforts as being truly important to humankind.
The other instance was the collision of two news helicopters and the deaths of all four on board. The police in Phoenix were chasing someone, and the two news copters were competing to get some interesting news footage. It is doubtful that the police appreciated their presence. In fact my first thought upon hearing about the crash was to be worried that the press had collided with a police helicopter. A moment later I was relieved that it was “only” news people. I honestly find it hard to imagine that the world is a better place as a result of on the spot helicopter news coverage of yet another police chase. Which makes the death of four people in that kind of endeavor seem rather…pathetic.
Death in any form is tragic. There are mothers, brothers, spouses, and friends who are all grieving today, and it makes no difference how the death occurred. My condolences go out to anyone who knows any of these folks personally. But these events are, for me, a reminder of how I personally would want to “spend” my life, if I had to make the ultimate sacrifice.